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Keenan versus Baillie

21 April 2010

The Douglas Keenan story has resurfaced across the blogosphere but see http://climateaudit.org for probably the best treatment – and it’s implications. The FOI commissioner has agreed tree ring data from Queens University in Belfast should be passed over to Keenan. Mike Baillie, in various mainstream media sources such as The GuardianNew Scientist and The Times, has come across as a very angry man. He objects to the handover of the data – which largely goes back to the 1970s and 1980s and was constructed for reasons other than climate science. Mike Baillie argues the oak chronologies (mainly from Irish bogs) were virtually useless as temperature proxies – and it was dangerous to include them in a temperature reconstruction (as they would slur the results). However, it is interesting to note that 3 of Baillie’s tree ring chronologies were used by Michael Mann in 2008 (a reformatted hockey stick model) without any kind of complaint from Baillie or any other dendrochronologist. Baillie’s argument is that bog oaks are useful as an indication of one-off dramatic events – such as droughts, but not as temperature indicators because they are highly sensitive to water availability. He says the tree ring data was never collated in order to produce a climate record. He therefore opposes Keenan’s request for the data because Keenan wants to extract statistical climate data from them. Michael Mann, in 2008, made use of 119 different oak chronologies, 3 of which were associated with Baillie. Steve McIntyre asks why Baillie did not speak up against Mann. Climate Audit at the time urged specialists to speak up against the known misuse of proxies but remained silent – hence Baillie is accused of hypocrisy (and that is the way the story seems to come across). 

Here at SIS Mike Baillie has given a number of talks and his books have been reviewed favourably but it is also true that his version of tree ring chronology has been controversial from the beginning as it is constructed in such a way as to support the pre-existing C14 dating methodology. What else might the release of the data discover? 

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